Last year’s Europa League disappointment to ‘fire up’ Aberdeen

Graeme Shinnie believes last seasons Europa League disappointment will fire the Dons to success tonight. Picture: SNS
Graeme Shinnie believes last seasons Europa League disappointment will fire the Dons to success tonight. Picture: SNS
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Graeme Shinnie is determined that this time Aberdeen will not add to the already extensive list of glorious failures when it comes to Scottish clubs in European football after completing their ties against NK Maribor.

The Slovenian side arrive at Pittodrie tonight for the first leg of the Europa League qualifier with an enviable recent record in continental competition, including aggregate wins over Celtic, Rangers and Hibernian.

Of course, the Easter Road club’s elimination from the tournament on penalties against Brondby last week was just the latest in an all-too-familiar pattern for teams from this country down the years.

It’s something Shinnie himself suffered just a few weeks into his Aberdeen career 12 months ago when, despite laying siege to the Kairat Alamaty goal, they fell just short of the result that would have taken them on to the final play-off round.

That’s not an experience he intends to repeat any time soon, although Shinnie is convinced the memory of what happened will inspire the Dons players to make it to the final qualifying round and beyond.

“The hunger and fire in the belly of the boys to get through this round is massive” said Shinnie. “We got to this stage last season and I felt in that tie we were good enough to get through.

“It was so disappointing that we didn’t. It was a tough draw last year, but, personally, I felt we were good enough to progress beyond that tie.

“Kairat were a good team. I am not saying they were rubbish, but, on the day, I felt we could have pushed to get the right result and it just wasn’t to be.

“It was a really frustrating and disappointing but now we need to use that as it is then a one-tie shootout after that to make the group stages.

“We are totally focused on the Maribor game, though, and all the boys are looking forward to it. It is a game we should all enjoy, but the only way you can do this is by getting a positive result.”

Shinnie also knows that self discipline is important in these sort of occasions as the Slovenian side have already shown just how tough they can be during the recent pre-season friendly against Celtic.

Some of the tackling certainly belied that “friendly” tag during the 0-0 draw between the pair with Leigh Griffiths actually spat on during a fiery encounter and Shinnie can’t afford to get drawn into anything after a needless booking in Latvia a week ago. That said, someone equally at home in defence and midfield since moving to Pittodrie, has made it clear Aberdeen are more than prepared for whatever Maribor throw at them.

“You come up against different cultures, but we need to focus on our game and not get dragged into any sort of trouble” he added. “We need to concentrate and make sure we are at the top of our game.

“It will be a tough game. We know they have a good team and have a pedigree but we have been up against tough teams before and won. We know it is a tie we can win.

“They have had some good results in Scotland, so they will come across here and fancy their chances. We hope they come over here thinking they will roll over us because we know that is not going to be the case.

“I am not sure how they feel coming over here, but I know the confidence is high in our dressing room and we will be looking to do the business.”

Maribor have played four competitive matches this season, two domestically and their second-round qualifying tie against Levski Sofia, and the goal they lost in Bulgaria is the only one conceded so far.

It was a similar story when Celtic played the Slovenian side a few weeks ago as that ended in a 0-0 draw, so they will be hard to break down but those results show they 
have lost a bit of their cutting edge.

Hardly surprising as Agim Ibraimi moved to Celtic’s Champions League opponents Astana in the summer while Jean-Philippe Mendy was transfered 
to Chinese Super League side Shijiazhuang and the pair 
contributed 27 goals between them for Maribor last season.

However, manager Derek McInnes, pictured left, pointed to the 1-1 draw in Bulgaria that saw them progress on away goals as evidence of how tough it will be for Aberdeen when he said:“Maribor have a system of play that is very 
effective, they’re compact and play well on the counter attack.

“The home tie is important because, although it can’t win you the game, it can lose it 
for you.

“It can set you up to win over the two legs so while we want to win this game it’s no disaster if we don’t. Getting a goal away from home is massive, so we have to do our best to stop them getting one.

“Not conceding at home in Europe is a huge thing, we think they will be compact and will try to pick us off if we’re sloppy or too gung-ho. We want to win the game but we have to get the balance between that and playing with thought.”

McInnes has a full-strength squad to choose from with the exception of former Dundee United defender Callum 
Morris, who is sidelined through injury.